Retail Property - Chester approves £200m plan to boost retail core by one third

Chester City Council has given the green light to the city's biggest-ever development, ING Real Estate's£200 million Northgate scheme.

The Dutch investor was appointed two years ago by the council to work up plans for a retail-led scheme for 4.5 ha around Northgate Street that would form a natural extension to the city's shopping core.

Now, following a final round of revisions, the planning committee has approved the designs by Sir Michael Hopkins that will increase Chester's retail space by about a third.

The scheme will provide 60 new shops anchored by a 14,000 sq m department store and an indoor market. The open-air scheme will feature two-level shopping streets to echo Chester's famous Rows, and to make way for the development.

The existing Forum shopping centre and market hall will be demolished.

A 650-space multi-storey car park, bus station and link road are included in the scheme. Chester City Council will relocate to a new civic centre on the Gorse Stacks car park site.

Although the decision is still to be ratified by the full council, and may be called in by the Government Office for the Northwest, it has strong support. Council leader John Price said the plans were 'the most exciting thing to happen to Chester since the Romans arrived'.

If the final planning hurdles are overcome, the project could be up and trading by 2007.

Lunson Mitchenall is the letting agent.